To mark the United Nations International Day Against Nuclear Tests (29 August), Global Green USA and the Embassy of Kazakhstan hosted a reception on 1 September, during which speakers called for U.S. ratification of the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and for the permanent ban on any testing of nuclear weapons.
Held at the at the University Club of Washington with guests from government, academia, and non-governmental organization, speakers included His Excellency Erlan A. Idrissov, Ambassador of Kazakhstan to the United States, and Dr. Paul F. Walker, Washington DC director of Global Green USA
In his speech, Idrissov noted that 29 August was designated by the United Nations last December as an annual date to focus on ending nuclear testing globally because of its historic significance. It was on 29 August 1949 that the Soviet Union detonated its first nuclear device, just four years after the Trinity, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki nuclear explosions by the United States. During the next forty years, 456 nuclear and thermonuclear explosions were conducted at the test site with a cumulative power output equal to 2,500 bombs dropped on Hiroshima, Japan.
The zone of environmental contamination around the former Semipalatinsk test site spread over more than 300,000 square kilometres, comparable to the territories of Germany or Italy and equal to more than 10 percent of Kazakhstan’s territory. Soviet nuclear testing has impacted the lives of some 1.4 million people in Kazakhstan. Diseases have been found in the third generation of surrounding populations at unusually high rates, including encephalitis, schizophrenia, various cancers, leukaemia, and heart disease. Birth defects are also common.
And 42 years later, on 29 August 1991, Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev ordered the closure of the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site, the primary nuclear testing area of the Soviet Union.
Walker, meanwhile, underlined the importance of U.S. ratification of the CTBT “to help close a very dangerous chapter of the Cold War” and “to take one step closer to a world free of nuclear weapons.” “Eight nuclear powers have conducted over 2,000 nuclear tests since 1945, the last tests having been conducted by North Korea in 2006 and 2009. If we want to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons, one key step is to ratify the test ban treaty and allow it to enter into force.”
To date, 153 countries have ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) since it was opened for signature and ratification in 1996. The United States, which stopped nuclear testing in 1992, was the first to sign the Treaty but the US Senate failed to ratify it in 1999 by a vote of 48-51. The CTBT specifies 44 countries with nuclear weapons and/or facilities must ratify the treaty before it may enter into force; nine of these have not yet ratified it: China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, and the U.S. President Barack Obama declared in 2009 “after more than five decades of talks, it is time for the testing of nuclear weapons to be finally banned.”
The United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs, and its Regional Centres, together with the United Nations Department of Public Information, will serve as the focal points within the UN system to commemorate the annual International Day against Nuclear Testing, in close collaboration with the Preparatory Commission of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO).